Police in Palm Springs, Calif. say two prominent residents were attacked by two men on Sunday night because they are gay. Detectives are investigating the attack on George and Chris Zander as a felony hate crime, according to The Desert Sun, the second antigay hate crime in the city this year.
The married couple were holding hands when they left Hunters, a popular gay bar, according to Chris Zander, who said they were confronted by a man who yelled an antigay slur. When Chris responded by saying, "That's totally uncalled for," the man reportedly pulled him to the ground by his shirt, and then ran.
As the couple continued on their way, their attacker returned with another man, and struck Chris Zander in the head, knocking him out. George Zander, who is 71 years old, was pushed to the ground and fractured his hip in two places. He will undergo surgery today to repair the damage, but is expected to make a full recovery. A photo of George snapped Monday was posted on Facebook by friends.
"I don't understand why somebody would push a 71-year-old man over. It makes me want to cry every time I talk about it," Chris Zander told The Desert Sun.
Police are looking for two white males, one described as stocky, with red hair. The men drove away in what police describe as a "a sedan-type vehicle."
George Zander is the Equality California Coachella Valley field manager and active in the Desert Stonewall Democrats. The couple is well known for their activism, and community leaders reacted with shock and dismay.
"George is a core member of our team and our entire staff and board were horrified to hear of this horrific hate crime," said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. "This was an attack on someone who confronts bigotry and hostility as part of his job, and who works every day to make the world a better and safer place for LGBT people. If it can happen to George in a place that we think of as a refuge for the LGBT community, it can happen to anyone, anywhere. In spite of the victories of the past 10 years, we still have so much work to do."
Veteran gay activist Cleve Jones wrote about the attack on his former neighbors on Facebook, saying "We've come a long way, but anti-gay violence is still real, even in places like Palm Springs." A group, Justice & Support for George, has been established on Facebook to show support for George and his husband.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Palm Springs Police at 760-323-8116, or Valley Crime Stoppers at 760-341-STOP (7867).